How does studying abroad work?
Believe it or not, studying abroad isn’t something that just happens, it takes a lot of preparation and background knowledge. While you don’t need to know absolutely everything, navigating all that needs to be done before going abroad can be very overwhelming. Behind the scenes you have providers organizing trips, reading applications, and filling out visas. While you’re trying to decide where exactly you where you want to go and if your credits will transfer.
The process of figuring out how study abroad works is similar to shopping. You browse and look at all your options. While you naturally want to buy or explore everything, there always one program that will be the “perfect fit.” Deciding to study abroad is never hard, it’s just narrowing down your options. With so much to do and so many to explore, where is an ambitious traveler supposed to start?
If reading this was any indication, you are certainly in the right place and off to a great start. So let’s get down to it, how do study abroad programs work? What are the ways to study abroad?
8 popular ways to study abroad
1. With a provider
While the term study abroad makes you think of educational institutions like high school or college, these are not the only places where you can find programs. Providers like IES Abroad, API, and have worked for years to provide top-notch programs all around the world. While some providers have partnerships with American universities most third party providers work alone and dedicate their efforts to providing all the support necessary for their travelers. Associated costs for the trip which can include flight, lodging, and food are given directly to the program but always make sure to see what the program includes since they can vary. Some third party providers also offer scholarships through their programs to lower the cost.
- Pros: You don’t have to worry a thing! The greatness of study abroad providers is that they support you every step of the way, from taking care of your needs before you leave, having support on-site, and even when you return from your trip. These programs are true providers and help you with literally anything. Your study abroad experience is planned from start to finish with no uncertainties.
- Cons: Your trip is planned from start to finish. Provider programs are very organized, so your schedule, trips and excursions are all pre-planned for you. This leaves little time to explore the country and culture on your own terms. Of course, you’ll have a good time (they are the experts, after all!), but if you love independent adventures on a whim or if you’re looking for a more personalized experience, a provider wouldn’t be your fave option.
- More info: Study Abroad Program Showdown: Direct Enrollment vs. Affiliate Programs
2. Through your university
The old faithful of the group, studying through your university offers a familiar path to your international learning experience. Choosing between Fall, Spring, or a Summer semester, you have the freedom to choose what’s is best for your academic schedule. For the cost of tuition, you can travel with familiar faculty and classmates to have an intimate learning experience abroad. Bonus: Your scholarships and financial aid might carry over to help alleviate your study abroad expenses, too! On top of familiar faces, university programs also guarantee support and transferrable credits that won’t be questioned (so you won’t be worried taking classes that don’t count).
- Pros: Your financial aid is transferable! If you’re traveling during the fall and spring semesters, your regular financial aid rewards can go toward your travels. So take a semester abroad and get out of the college bubble (your university can pay for it!).
- Cons: If you’re going through your university, you’re going to have a limited selection. Most university sponsored programs are restricted by major, so if your dream destination doesn’t correlate with the focus of the trip, you won’t be tagging along. Program offerings also vary by semester; if you see a trip you want and can go on don’t hesitate, you’ll never know when you get to go again.
- More info: Your University Study Abroad Office Website
3. Through an exchange
Ah, so you want the chance to be the cool exchange student, eh? Well, it’s possible. Take matters into your own hands and apply directly to the international school of your dreams. Dive into a new education system and see what they have to offer. Whether you’re living in an apartment or a homestay—on a university campus like other students!—your exchange experience is a great glimpse at student life and real life in your country of choice. So save up and take part in an experience to broaden your horizons. The is a great site to start researching placements and programs.
- Pros: New international friends and experiences to broaden your perspective. Living with a host family and interacting with local students give you a glimpse of other issues affecting the world and can show such issues outside of an American context.
- Cons: While really diving into the culture is necessary to adjust and really get the most out of your exchange. Culture shock is real, and it stinks. The unfamiliarity of everything can be overwhelming. It’s definitely a downer at first but keep your head up and your transition eventually.
- More info: 8 Criteria as You Shop for Universities Abroad
4. At a language school
Become a multi-linguist genius in one semester or year with a language school program. While there are of ways to study abroad and boost your language proficiency on this list, these programs are the most committed to upping your language skills. Learn the proper writing, dialects, grammar, and even casual lingo of the language of your choice and become more confident. So choose a language, find a program, and go!
- Pros: With the variety of language schools out there, you can grasp the language beyond the textbook. Practice with locals and in-class conversations to increase your fluency. With your mastery, you’ll have a skill that’s a true asset and is applicable in real life situations. The gift of language is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Cons: Brain overload. For most intensive programs, you will only be allowed to speak that language during the length of that program. So you might feel stressed out and tempted to compare yourself to other students in your program; However the purpose of these programs is to learn. So while it’s gonna be intense, learn at your pace and dig a little deeper.
- More info: Why Choose Intensive Language Programs?
5. Through a government program, like Fulbright
The Department of State funds a number of programs for students to study abroad. Promoting diplomacy and cultural exchange these funded programs come at a lower cost. While the famous Fulbright program is the flagship program and the most competitive to study abroad. You have flexible choices. Other famous government program to look at include the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship Program, the Peace Corps and the .
- Pros: You can make an impact. While every program has a different focus, you can conduct research and use their time abroad to tackle and assist global issues.
- Cons: For programs like the Peace Corps, and the Fulbright program your time abroad isn’t your typical year or semester. These programs have a mandatory two year commitment for you to participate. If this is too long to be away from home or you envisioned a shorter study abroad experience. These programs won’t be your cup of tea.
- More info: 5 Amazing Scholarships for a Fully-Funded Study Abroad Experience
6. As a graduate student or researcher
Although some research opportunities can also be found under volunteer abroad programs, researching as a graduate student can only benefit your resume or your academic career. Get the opportunity to work with famous international professors in your field, and possibly publish your research in international journals. Depending on what country you go to, you can even earn your masters for free. Grabbing your master’s abroad kills two birds with one stone by getting you more education in your field in a global context.
- Pros: A career boost. While having hands on experience has its benefits, leveraging an international master’s degree helps your resume look more competitive and sets you apart from other candidates. The boost can kick your career in gear and expand your skill set.
- Cons: It can get really expensive. Particularly if you have student loans from your bachelor’s degree. So before you think of going, make sure it’s financially feasible for you and for the long haul.
- More info: Can You Study Abroad in Grad School?
7. As a high school student
Studying abroad isn’t just for college students. Get a head start in filling up your passport pages by signing up for a study abroad program. Educate yourself beyond the classroom and boost your college applications by gaining some global knowledge. While these programs vary in cost some providers offer scholarships to help ease the burden. With the added opportunity to earn college credit for your experience, it’s a parental investment well spent.
- Pros: Learn more yourself and mature. Studying abroad in high school might be the first time you’ve been far from home. Distancing yourself from your parents’ protection and studying and living independently will require a lot of maturity of your part, but it will help you take your grown-up responsibilities for a test drive. Plus, come college application time, your experience abroad will not only look great on your application but a fantastic application essay!
- Cons: You might feel homesick. But this is perfectly normal. If you think your going to have a major case of FOMO, don’t. Stay present and take advantage of this awesome opportunity.
- More info: World’s Best Countries for Study Abroad in High School
8. As an au pair
So how does studying abroad work in this case? Take your Friday and Saturday night gig and turn it up several notches! As an au pair, you’ll be a live in babysitter in the country of your choice. While you’re working for your host family, you can build your language skills, take classes, and in some cases, get paid $$$. With the lowest cost out of all the study abroad options on this list, no scholarships will be necessary. Get ready to know your family and the culture with this unique learning experience. Especially if you love kids, give this a try.
- Pros: No worries room and board. For this study abroad opportunity,you are living rent free. Your family might even give you a few meals! And did I mention you can get paid? Some families offer stipends for their au pairs so you can either save up or spend your cash on visiting cool places in your down time.
- Cons: It’s not your conventional study abroad experience. As an au pair, your first priority is your job and the children you are taking care of. This means any traveling or exploring you want to do comes dead last. If you’re not ready for this kind of sacrifice just yet might want to explore programs with less serious obligations.
- More info: Overseas Nanny Jobs are the New Black
Next steps to finding ways to study abroad
If you’re the ambitious adventurer we know you are, you might be wondering a few more things when it comes to studying abroad. How do study abroad programs work in China for instance, or how do study abroad programs work for students with disabilities? Well, we got your back on both fronts right here on GoAbroad!
And just because we love travel so much we’ve got more links below to guide you on your study abroad journey. We have steps for every single part of the process and possibly everything you’re thinking regarding travel. (Consider us magical mind readers!). Check out our additional links below and get closer to the travel experience you’ve dreamed of!
- Online Advisor ← for custom program recommendations (#lifehack)
- Program directories. If you’ve ever wanted a massive list of all of your options (with tons of filtering choices), you’re in luck. High School Programs Abroad | Master’s Programs Abroad | Doctorate Programs Abroad | Study Abroad Programs
- We get it! This sh!t’s overwhelming. Here’s how to choose between study abroad programs
Study abroad how you want, and just do it!
Select the program that fits your personality and goals the best and start pursuing it. Lizzie McGuire didn’t figure out what dreams are made of from her room back home.